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GoAir rebrands as Go First; promises cheaper fares, young fleet –

GoAir. | Representative image.

GoAir has rebranded itself as Go First as the Wadia group-owned airline prepares for an IPO and ambitious expansion after a rocky period when the pandemic derailed the aviation sector.

The morning of May 13 saw one-page advertisements splashed in newspapers across the country about GoAir becoming Go First. The logo on the tail changed in look and colour with a promise of cheaper fares, young fleet and safe operations.

By the afternoon, the airline formally said it was rebranding itself as Go First. The airline commenced operations in 2005 and has just over 50 aircraft in its fleet, even as rival IndiGo which started a year later is over 5 times in size.

The rebranding has not brought about immediate, visible changes on the ground, or it website, unlike some other cases like Vodafone’s acquisition of Hutch, when everything changed overnight.

GoAir started with having a different-coloured tail for each aircraft and different uniforms for the crew. The airline quickly changed track as it was difficult to maintain inventory of engineering parts with so many colours. With a handful of colours to just Grey and Blue and later just Blue – the standardisation happened nearly a decade ago.

The airline was all set for its next phase of growth — having started international services and plans to induct a new aircraft a month — until the pandemic struck. The airline is again planning to file for an IPO and list on the bourses to raise cash which is likely to be used to retire old debt, get immediate cash infusion to tide over the current crisis and plan its expansion.

Cost of rebranding

The last 14 months have been very tough for Indian aviation. GoAir has been no exception. Rebranding doesn’t come cheap. While the new aircraft would be rebranded, the existing one may have to undergo the changes when they are due for major checks later.

With a fleet of over 50 aircraft, printing new safety cards placed in each seat pocket is a mammoth task since these aircraft come with 186 seats, adding up to about 10,000 such cards.

The aircraft – exterior and interior, check-in counters and offices would also involve expenditure for the airline that is going for ‘ultra low-cost’ operation.

Rebranding in India

There have been three rebranding attempts in the last 15 years – exactly the time for which GoAir has operated in Indian skies.

Indian Airlines was rebranded as “Indian” just a month after GoAir started operations. In 2011, Indian Airlines merged with Air India.

A year later, Jet Airways purchased Air Sahara and rebranded it as Jetlite, Jet Airways had also operated JetKonnect as its low-cost arm. Eventually, it moved back to the full-service model but the airline ceased operations in 2019.

In 2008, Kingfisher Airlines purchased Air Deccan and rebranded it as Simplify Deccan. The LCC arm also operated as Kingfisher Red. Like Jet, Kingfisher Airlines also moved back to being full-service carrier. It ceased operations in 2012.

The positive side

The airline is likely to be the first all-neo airline in the country. This will give the airline a huge boost for the same reasons for which IndiGo is being hailed for phasing out the older planes. The airline will be spared costly maintenance and checks of its older aircraft.

With the problems of PRatt & Whitney engines resolved, and the A320neo improving its dispatch reliability, the airline is definitely poised for growth. The money raised from the IPO would help the airline get to Number-2 position in Indian skies.

GoAir does not have a great brand recall even after years of operations. A fresh and appealing brand creation strategy could go a long way to attract both investors and passengers.

Spicejet first and IndiGo later – have deviated to a non- LCC model with multiple fleet types. GoAir is the only carrier, apart from AirAsia India, to have remained true to the LCC philosophy of low cost carriers. With the future of AirAsia dependent on the outcome of the Air India bid by TATAs, GoAir could be the only true LCC in the future.

Tail Note

In its advertisement, the airline has mentioned ‘Point to Point’ prominently. Like all its Indian peers, GoAir moved away from the point-to-point model long back, offering one stop flights and connections. The airline has also built hubs at Mumbai and Delhi, helping feed passengers to its flights from these two cities and offering pan-India connectivity. Will it move back to point to point? If it does, it may lead to opening up of many new markets.

A new route gets preference during slot allocation and that could mean increased presence at both Mumbai and Delhi – the most congested airports in the country. All in all, the rebranding exercise and a refreshed identity will be fruitful if the airline can manage a successful IPO and all eyes shift to that now in current market conditions.